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The Three Wasps!

Link - Posted by David on March 20, 2024 @ 6:00 am in

WHILE recently looking through Harold Hersey’s short-run aviation titles, I came upon what I thought was a new series we could feature on the site, or maybe in a book if there were enough stories. Thumbing though the first issue of Hersey’s Eagles of the Air there was an ad for the next issue stating, “Another Story of The “WASPS”"

I looked in the next issue and there they were as well as running in three of the other seven issues of the run—five tales in all. I scanned the pages to read later and continued searching through the various titles.

Later, while reading the first one, I was thinking this all sounds so familiar. I was thinking this was a story I had just read—and it was, but then it was a story staring Ralph Oppenheim’s “Three Mosquitoes,” not D. Campbell’s “Three Wasps.” So I pulled up the Mosquitoes version of the story and Campbell’s story was a virtual word-for-word copy of of Oppenheim’s—all he did was change the names of the characters.

So Kirby, the young impetuous leader of the Three Mosquitoes becomes Gary, the young impetuous leader of the Three Wasps. “Shorty” Carn, the mild-eyed, corpulent little Mosquito becomes the mild-eyed, corpulent “Shorty” Keen, complete with briar pipe in Campbell’s Wasps. To complete the inseparable trio, Travis, the oldest and wisest of the Mosquitoes, has his name changed to Cooper.

The Text. A portion of the D. Campbell’s “Dangerous Business” (Eagles of the Air, Nov 1929) on the left and the similar passage from Ralph Oppenheim’s “Stacked Cards” (War Birds, Jul 1928) on the right.

I couldn’t believe it. So I checked out the Wasps story in the next issue and it was the same thing. And so on with the other three—sometimes even forgetting to change “Mosquitoes” to “Wasps”. All five stories were plagiarized from Oppenhiem’s stories. Instead of just stealing a random story like Robert A. Carter had done, D. Campbell was plagiarizing a whole series!

It seemed a bold move that nobody seemed to notice. Weirdly, I could find no mention of it in the newspapers of the time. The only hint of something being up was pointed out by a reader whose letter ran in the same issue as the final Wasps story.

So who was this D. Campbell? I thought at first it was just an alias for Oppenheim who was simply trying to repackage his Three Mosquitoes stories as The Three Wasps and get paid for them again—’cause nobody would be so bold, but D. Campbell it turns out, is an actual guy.

Donald Marr Campbell was born on September 2nd, 1904 in Cambellton, Texas and had his first story in the pulps, “King Ranch,” in the February 11th, 1928 issue of West. He’s credited with a couple dozen stories that run the gamut from aviation to detective to spy to westerns with his last appearing in the March 1932 issue of The Shadow

Campbell listed his occupation as Cafe Operator in the 1940 census and signed up for the war effort in 1942. Sadly, in the 1950 census he is listed as being unable to walk. He moved to Houston in 1956 where he lived until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 69 following an extended illness.

Looking at some of his other published stories, it turns out there was an earlier plagiarized Wasp story that appeared in the April 1929 Flying Aces. This would make it the first of the Wasp stories. The issue also include a letter of thanks for publishing from Campbell!

In all Campbell had six stories of the Wasps published. Each was a virtual word for word copy of a preexisting story of the Three Mosquitoes by Ralph Oppenhiem. They were:

  • Flying To Glory (Flying Aces, Apr 1929) is based on Oppenheim’s Down from the Clouds (War Stories, Aug 19, 1927)
  • Reckless and Lucky (Eagles of the Air, Oct 1929) is based on Oppenheim’s Two Aces~and A Joker (War Birds, Jun 1928)
  • Dangerous Business (Eagles of the Air, Nov 1929) is based on Oppenheim’s Stacked Cards (War Birds, Jul 1928)
  • Luck of the Wasps (Eagles of the Air, Jan 1930) is from Oppenheim’s An Ace In The Hole (War Stories Mar 29, 1928)
  • Three Flying Fools (Eagles of the Air Feb 1930) is from Oppenheim’s Get That Gun (War Stories Nov 8, 1928)
  • The Wasps (Eagles of the Air Mar 1930) is from Oppenheim’s Two Aces—In Dutch (War Stories, Dec 6, 1928)

But what better way than to see for yourself. So we’ll be posting couple of the Wasps’ adventures over the next week. As the Three Mosquitoes and the Three Wasps would both say, “Let’s Go!”

The first of D. Campbell’s Three Wasps stories appeared in the pages of the April 1929 Flying Aces. The greatest fighting war-birds on the Western Front roar into action. The three Spads flying in a V formation so precise that they seemed as one. On their trim khaki fuselages, were three identical insignias—each a huge, black-painted picture of a grim-looking wasp. In the cockpits sat the reckless, inseparable trio known as the “Three Wasps.” Captain Gary, their impetuous young leader, always flying point. On his right, “Shorty” Keen, the mild-eyed, corpulent little Mosquito, who loved his sleep. And on Kirby’s left, completing the V, the eldest and wisest of the trio—long-faced and taciturn Cooper.

A new C.O. has been assigned to the squadron and he can’t stand pilots who “grand-stand” which is the Mosquitoes stock-in-trade and boy do they catch hell when they get on the C.O.’s wrong side—that is until the C.O. gets in a jam and it’s trick flying that’ll save him when the Boche attack!

The C.O. called them babies and forbade stunt flying. Not content with that he separated the Three Wasps, the greatest flying, fighting trio he had. Hatred was rampant. But all this was forgotten when the great call came!

Compare this to Oppenheim’s original version of the story with The Three Mosquitoes!

Down from the Clouds

The C.O. of the flying field was sore—the Three Mosquitoes, dare-devils supreme were doing their “grand-stand stuff” again. But when the C.O. found himself in difficulties, with Boche planes swarming all around him—things were different. The best flying story of the month.

And check back on Friday when the Wasps will be back with another exciting adventure!

“The Phantom Fokker” by Fred Denton Moon

Link - Posted by David on October 20, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another one of the few stories from Fred Denton Moon. Moon was born in Athens, Georgia in 1905 and was a freelance writer. A former staff member of The Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazinesince 1930, he was the first editor of the Journal’s wire photo service as well as former city editor of the Journal. He was member of the Society of Professional Journalists/Sigma Delta Chi and retired from the Georgia Department of Labor in 1971. Moon died in 1982 at the age of 76.

Jeff Potts was the best-natured man in the Red Dot. Also, the most fearless. He’d won a string of medals before most of the other boys started realizing that a little scrap was going on in France. But he never bragged. In fact, Jeff Potts was so reckless in his fearlessness, a few of the men had an idea that he was just a little bit off. But even those who thought he was queer liked him a heap. The Red Dot actually seemed to centre around Jeff Potts. He was the life of the field. So when Jeff came back from a night time bombing mission with a story of a Phantom Fokker, the rest of the squadron didn’t quite know how to take it—or him. It wasn’t until long after the war that Jeff learned the truth behind “The Phantom Fokker!” From the pages of the March 1929 issue of Sky Birds.

A weird, strange story of a baffling encounter with a ghost of the air.

“Martyrs of the Air: Frank Luke” by R.C. Wardell

Link - Posted by David on July 3, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we present an early Flying Aces cover from March 1929 by the incomparable R.C. Wardell. Wardell turned out numerous covers for the pulps in the late ’20’s and early ’30’s for magazines like Under Fire, Flyers, Flying Stories, Prison Stories, Sky Birds, Prize Air Pilot Stories, Far East Adventure Stories, Murder Stories, Murder Mysteries, Zoom! and of course Flying Aces, signing most of this work as “R.C. Wardel.” Here he depicts American Ace Frank Luke, shot down behind enemy lines waiting for the enemy troops to advance and take him prisoner—if they can!

Martyrs of the Air: Frank Luke

A German in name, but a fiery, patriotic American at heart, Frank Luke, the greatest ace that ever emblazoned his name in aviation annals, died as he had lived—a flaming, fighting, fast-winged warbird.


How much the name means to those few who knew how he fought, and died. And contrarily, how little it means to the vast majority of the great American people who knew so little about him.

Lieutenant Frank Luke’s career was short, hectic, and dynamic. He blazed across the wartorn skies of France like a flaming meteor and with equal brilliance. Very few people ever see the same blazing meteor in its dazzling course across the night skies; very few people ever heard of Lieutenant Frank Luke during his short but sensational career on the western front.

But to those who did come in contact with him, his valorous deeds and manner of dying will ever remain in their memories as long as they live. Frank Luke was the most courageous, the most audacious war bird that ever handled a control stick and pressed the Bowden triggers mounted on it.

Only Eddie Rickenbacker topped him in the final list of American Aces after the war was ended. Rickenbacker was officially credited with 26 victories. Frank Luke had 21. But the comparison is hardly fair to Frank Luke, for Eddie Rickenbacker was on the front for almost six months.

Luke’s front line career lasted only a little over two weeks, and even in that short space of time he was at one time the American Ace of Aces and there is no telling what score he would have run up if he hadn’t died. And how he died!

Bom of a German father who had emigrated to this country in the early days, and carrying a German name, Luke was looked upon with suspicion by his squadron mates who fraternized very little with him. Little did they suspect the intense hatred for the Germans that Luke harbored in his breast. He hated the enemy with an intensity of feeling that was only equalled by his supreme courage, and he swore when living that no German would ever take him alive. No German did.

There was another pilot in his squadron who had a German name and was of German parentage, a Lieutenant Wehner. The two, because they were more or less ostracized by the other members of the squadron, teamed up together. And what a team it was. The Germans soon learned to recognize the pair as twin furies of the skies, and would dash for cover as soon as the pair came in sight.

They were such dashing, daring fighters that the Germans gave them a clear sky when they came over, not even bothering to tarry and fight with them. Then it was that Luke originated his plans for bringing down German sausage balloons.

And what a terror the pair were to the German sausage observers—balloon after balloon fell before their streaking tracer fire. Finally, Wehner was killed while holding off an upper flight of German Fokkers who were trying to get at Luke below when he was diving on a German sausage with his twin Vickers guns blazing molten lead. Luke got the sausage, but the Fokkers got Wehner, and from that late afternoon on, Luke was never the same. He loved Wehner like a brother, and the Huns had got him.

“They’ll pay!” Luke stormed, and clenched his fists. “More than one Hun will pay for Wehner’s death.”

And more than one Hun did!

HE HAD been a terror before. After Wehner’s death he became a raving, tearing madman of the skies. Flying alone thereafter, he was the Lone Wolf of the sky trails. He had but one consuming passion; that was to get the Huns and then more Huns. Flying wherever he willed he tore up and down the front lines in search of Hun meat.

He paid no attention to orders and had absolutely no regard for discipline. One night would see his Spad plane bivouaced at some strange French airdrome far from his own squadron. The next night he would be way across France over in Lorraine somewhere. During his flights between he left a path of desolation. The German feldwebels dubbed him the Scourge of the Skies and scurried for cover whenever they saw Luke’s plane skirting down the trench lines.

His own commanding officer never knew where he was or what he was doing. An old army sergeant, one John Monroe, who had charge of an advanced emergency landing field right behind the front lines perhaps knew more of Luke’s movements during his short career on the front than any other man. Luke spent many a night sleeping with Monroe in his pup tent.

The sergeant would service his plane for him each night he landed and make it ready to take off before dawn the next day. Then while the two laid in the tent trying to go to sleep, Luke would tell the sergeant of the events of the day as he saw them from the sky.

Luke’s last day on earth was a spectacular one. He brought down two sausage balloons and one Hun plane, and was himself shot down about five miles behind the German lines near the little town of Murveaux. Luke was not shot to death in the air, but bullets from a Hun Spandau had shattered his propellor and damaged his engine such that he had to make a forced landing behind the German lines.

In addition he had two slight flesh wounds which were not in themselves serious enough to cause death, but they did make him somewhat weak from loss of blood. While the crippled plane was Winging down to a landing with the Hun attackers hovering overhead, Luke spied a cutover wheat-field and by agile manoeuvering, managed to set his plane down safely on it.

To any ordinary pilot, that would have meant the end of the war. But, not so with Luke. A small company of German infantry were stationed at Murveaux not far from the wheatfield, and when they saw Luke’s plane land, they sauntered out to take him prisoner.

When Luke’s plane staggered to a dead stop Luke jumped out of the cockpit on the side nearest the approaching soldiers. His left hand dangled loosely from his-shoulder and blood was on his tunic sleeve. His right hand he kept inside the cockpit, apparently holding himself up, for his knees buckled and he was half slumped to the ground, and so the approaching captors thought.
Luke looked at them and let them come. On they came in sort of a half run with their bayonets fixed. Luke watched them out of the corner of his eyes, and clenched his right hand tighter. His body swayed a little and he reeled slightly, nevertheless he held his feet, and when th approaching Germans got within about 50 feet of him, he snapped his right hand out of the cockpit. In it was a Colt Automatic. Luke leveled it and fired pointblank into the faces of the captors.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!

Five successive shots rang out. Five of the approaching Germans fell dead, shot through the heart each and every one of them.

More shots rang out, from the German’s rifles this time. Luke slumped over by the side of his machine, dead, his body riddled like a sieve by the German fire.

But think of the cold, raw courage that was Luke’s. In the height of battle man might do that, many of them. But Luke had time to think while his would-be captors approached.

“Surrender, and live through the war? Or die fighting with the blood of his comrade Wehner further avenged?”

Frank Luke died, and how gallantly!

The Ships on The Cover
“Martyrs of the Air: Frank Luke”
Flying Aces, March 1929 by R.C. Wardell

“Aces of the Sea” by Ralph Oppenheim

Link - Posted by David on March 24, 2023 @ 6:00 am in

Navy Stories Ad
An ad for “Aces of the Sea” from the pages of the March 1929 Sky Riders

THEIR familiar war cry rings out—“Let’s Go!” The greatest fighting war-birds on the Western Front are once again roaring into action. The three Spads flying in a V formation so precise that they seemed as one. On their trim khaki fuselages, were three identical insignias—each a huge, black-painted picture of a grim-looking mosquito. In the cockpits sat the reckless, inseparable trio known as the “Three Mosquitoes.” Captain Kirby, their impetuous young leader, always flying point. On his right, “Shorty” Carn, the mild-eyed, corpulent little Mosquito, who loved his sleep. And on Kirby’s left, completing the V, the eldest and wisest of the trio—long-faced and taciturn Travis.

Were back with the third of three Three Mosquitoes stories we’re presenting this month. This week it’s a bit of a departure for the inseparable trio when they are loaned out to the Navy. Somehow, under our very noses in the heavily mined and patrolled waters of the English Channel, six ships have disappeared without a trace and no survivors. The Navy has designed a trap that they hope will catch or reveal what has happened to their missing ships and The Three Mosquitoes are to fly over the area to observe whatever happens. And that’s just the tip of this iceberg—events lead Kirby to be an unwilling passenger/prisoner aboard a U-boat bent on a hellish suicide mission to destroy Englands new super dreadnaught about to set sail! From the March 1929 issue of Navy Stories, it’s “Aces of the Sea!”

Every day Allied ships were being sunk in their own barricaded stronghold—and always there came the strange report, “No Survivors.” It was to solve this mystery that the navy called those three famous aces, Kirby, Carn and Travis, from the skies. A gripping novel in which the “Three Mosquitoes” go to sea!

If you enjoyed this tale of our intrepid trio, check out some of the other stories of The Three Mosquitoes we have posted by clicking the Three Mosquitoes tag or check out one of the four volumes we’ve published on our books page! A fifth volume will be out later this year. And come back next Friday or another exciting tale.

From the Scrapbooks: A Letter from Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by David on December 15, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Moving on from the George Bruce letter, a few pages later we find what looks like another letter, folded into thirds like it too had just been pulled out of an envelope and pasted to the page. . .

Unfolding the sheet of paper reveals a letter from Arch Whitehouse on Magazine Publishers Incorporated letterhead from March 7th, 1929.

Arch Whitehouse was one of the most prolific aviation writers out there. He created numerous series characters with names like Buzz Benson, Tug hardwick, Coffin Kirk, Crash Carringer, the Casket Crew, and many more. These series characters created for Flying Aces and Sky Birds were extremely popular with the readers back in the 30’s and 40’s. Month after month he brought these colorful aces to life. Whitehouse scope and breadth of information on aviation was so great that he also answered all questions written in to the magazines from the readers.

Robert had apparently written in about learning to fly and Arch Whitehouse felt the need to respond with words of encouragement personally to a then 19 year-old Robert.

Writing from New York City, Whitehouse advises:

Dear Robert:

    You have the right idea. Stick to it. Aviation has come to stay and a few accidents will not keep the real air-minded Americans out of the sky. I myself have flown several thousand hours, including two-thousand in France during the war, and I have yet to break a wire.

    A good training course will cost anything from $300 to $500 and the time required depends all upon yourself, if you are a natural born flier, you will learn quickly and save that much money, –but do not be in too much of a hurry.

                    Hoping to hear from you again soon, I am,
              Sincerely yours,                        

                              Arch Whitehouse
                              Technical editor
                              Sky Birds and Flying Aces Magazines.